Letter: Clarifying some issues about Sonoma Clean Power electricity delivery
After reading the interview with Geof Syphers, CEO from Sonoma Clean Power, in the North Bay Business Journal, I had some issues that need to be clarified.
One: Sonoma Clean Power claims to deliver and offer a higher level of renewable electricity than PG&E to its customers. Sonoma Clean Power does not deliver electricity directly to its customers because as long as PG&E owns the transmission lines, whatever electricity PG&E delivers to their customers is the same electricity that Sonoma Clean Power customers get. So please tell me how Sonoma Clean Power customers can get a higher level of renewable electricity than direct PG&E customers?
The electricity market in California has changed since 1998. PG&E no longer a monopoly controlling the source of power. “The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) manages the flow of electricity across the high-voltage, long-distance power lines for the grid serving 80 percent of California and a small part of Nevada.”
Companies buy and sell power for delivery by CAISO which directs all the major utility companies in California on what type of electricity to bring into our state. CAISO manages the flow of electricity to utility substations.
Then PG&E delivers the same electricity to all customers whether to PG&E direct or Sonoma Clean Power customers. There is one electrical transmission line; not a separate line for Sonoma Clean Power customers. It is not like the telecom market where a third party can deliver different telecom services over the same line like Sonic Internet does with AT&T telephone lines.
Sonoma Clean Power is a community choice aggregation (CCA) company that procures electricity for residents and businesses within their communities while still receiving transmission and distribution services as well as maintenance and billing services from their existing utility provider.
Very straight forward on their role. How do they justify offering their electricity at different renewable energy levels if they can’t deliver it to their customers and charge more money to their customers for higher renewable electricity levels?
Two: Sonoma Clean Power gets 44% of their electricity from hydroelectric power mostly in the Northwest. They acknowledge that in California it is not considered a renewable energy source. So why do they rely on almost half their electricity from a non-renewable energy source?
Three: in 2013 when Santa Rosa government was deciding to join Sonoma Clean Power, two consultants were hired to guide Santa Rosa, and both said don’t join. One was the general manager of Healdsburg Power who said that this is a futures business. Buy too much electricity, and you have to sell it on the spot market and take a loss. Buy too little power, and you have to buy the electricity on the spot market at high prices.
That means Sonoma Clean Power customers will have to pay for the extra costs. The 44% hydroelectric power dependency for Sonoma Clean Power could be decreased in the summer to fall if the dams don’t have enough water due to drought-like conditions even in the Pacific Northwest.
The concept of a CCA buying electricity and getting it to their customers a good one. It spurs competition to the existing utility company to increase renewable electricity use.
Maybe offers lower electricity prices. Costs also include transmission, maintenance and billing services by the utility for the CCA so no real final price difference from the utility company. But the reality is until Sonoma Clean Power owns the transmission lines to actually deliver the electricity that they are buying for their customers, they are primarily a wholesale buyer of electricity.